There’s an image out there – one I’ll admit to having held myself back in the “good ol’ days” – of the starving, suffering artist. Somehow that suffering, that instability and desperation, made it all…well…better. You could only create if you were broke and on the edge of personal disaster every moment of every day.
What a crock of shit.
I’ve been (relatively) rich, and I’ve been dirt poor. On the whole, rich is better. Anyone who says differently, anyone who points to their “happy days” of poverty, is living in a utopia of nostalgia and selective mental editing.
It is neither noble nor artistically enabling to have no idea if you can make rent next month. Throw in shit like wondering how far you can stretch $3 worth of cheap pasta and canned sauce…or like knowing the places that offer free bar snacks because at those you can get a “meal” for the price of a happy-hour Bud Light…
Why am I talking about this? Mostly because I was thinking about what it takes to write. I do suspect this is a question with no single answer, so all I can do is talk about what’s true for me. And what it takes, for me, is self-confidence. No self-confidence and there are no words on the page.
That is the difference between those who can (and do) write and those who just think/dream of writing. You’ve heard it a million times already: writers write. Well, take it from someone who knows: it is hard to think and dream and plan and then actually put it all down on paper when you’re obsessing about the demands of the “real world”.
Without the self-confidence – and the mental & emotional space – to lose myself in the writing, it is very, very hard to actually write. Honestly, that’s why you see so few new and/or fresh voices published nowadays. It is hard as hell to find (or make) the time & freedom – not to mention the access! – to break into the profession enough to succeed.
This is not a purely economic thing, by the way, and I don’t want to give that impression. I focused on that aspect in this post because, well, money matters. It matters a lot.
This life ain’t Star Trek…there is no space-magic to meet our daily needs. We have to fend for ourselves. Later, in another post (or two) I’ll tackle other aspects of self-confidence, other things that help and hurt. For now, however, I just wanted to note that which ties so many of us together: the frustrations of daily survival and how those affect the work. And note, specifically, how hard it can be to trust yourself, and to find the right thoughts and words, when the light at the end of that tunnel is oh-so-goddamned-far-away.
Sorry, but I have no answers. There are no magic words, and no easy solutions. But, and this is the important bit to know and to remember: you are not alone. No writer, however we feel, suffers alone. Whether you know them or not, there are others out there sharing your struggles…and, hopefully, your triumphs!
Want a beer?
[N.B. – this is the post I mentioned a while back, the one I was sitting on…]